Rainy, cold July was not a record-breaker

Last month was the 13th coldest July on record dating back to 1871 at Pittsburgh International Airport.

July also exceeded average rainfall totals, with rain totaling about one and a half inches above average. However, while it may seem like a fairly gloomy summer so far, meterologists with the National Weather Service in Pittsburgh say, in the larger historical picture, it has not been all that bad.

Spring got off to a cold and wet start this year, with the now infamous “polar vortex” hanging around well after snow stopped falling.

“The whole polar vortex thing was big in the winter time and it kind of lasted into the late spring,” explained Meteorologist Rihaan Gangat of the NWS in Pittsburgh.

After a cold start to spring, May proved to be slightly above average in terms of both temperature and precipitation. May averaged 62 degrees this year compared with a historical average of 60.2 degrees. Rain totals wound up being about an inch above average, with 4.32 inches recorded as compared to a historical average of 3.72 inches.

June was also fairly average for temperatures and rain. If anything, temperatures were a bit warmer than average at 70.6 degrees compared to a historic average of 68.7. Rain totals for June were nearly spot-on average at 4.05 inches compared to 3.92 inches for the historical average.

July is when weather patterns turned a bit “abnormal” according to Gangat. Cold air from Southeastern Canada moved in over the Midwest and the Northeast early on in the month. Gangat cautioned against calling this cold front another polar vortex, as some have.

“That was what stayed over our area for a week or two and people started calling it a polar vortex even though it wasn’t – it was just a cooler than average air pattern,” said Gangat.

At the end of July, rain totals averaged out at 5.19 inches as compared to a historical average of 3.91 inches. Temperatures hovered about two degrees below the historical average with 70.5 degrees as the monthly average. July did prove to be a record setting month in at least one way. On July 29, temperatures reached a record low of 51 degrees overnight. The previous record low was 52 degrees in 1982.

While these slightly above average rain fall totals and below average temperatures have made July seem a bit on the gloomy side, Gangat points out that things could have been worse. For instance, July 1976 averaged 67.4 degrees and in July 1984 temperatures averaged a chilly 68.4 degrees.

“It (this July) certainly wasn’t that out of the ordinary or that drastically cold,” said Gangat referencing the historical temperature and rainfall data.

Despite frequent downpours this summer, rain totals have not begun to come close to some of the extreme levels reached during summers past. June 1989 saw an average rain fall of 10.29 inches followed by an average of 1.62 inches the next month.

“Rain this year has not been out of the ordinary, we did not reach any records this year,” said Gangat.

As for August, the NWS in Pittsburgh forecast the month as being fairly average in all regards. Forecast currently shows the month ahead having an equal chance of being slightly above or below normal temperatures and rain fall. The historical average temperature for the month is 71.2 degrees.

“Nothing too out of the ordinary,” said Gangat describing the month ahead.